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Helping a 12y/o racer deal with fear.

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
My daughter is technically a very good skier. She has been skiing since she was about three and in a race program since she was six. She skis about 80 to 90 days per year, and she loves skiing and racing. Until last year, she saw a steady progression in her speed and ability to push herself. Half way through last season, she had a high speed "yard sale" type tumble while training (no injuries), and I noticed immediately that something was different in her skiing thereafter. The distance between her and the gates increased and her aggressiveness at starts decreased. She had often been “awarded” the most explosive starter prior to the fall, and not once after. (BTW, the cause of the crash is not clear, but I think her ski binding released prematurely.)

Today (a year after the “fall”) I spoke with her about her racing and asked what her racing goals ought to be. We discussed taking risks and going fast, and she is starting to notice that the girls her age who are doing well at races are also the ones who might also crash on occasion. She is realizing that to do well in racing, she has to push herself and take some risks. However, her comment was also that she is afraid of hurting herself, so she holds back. This has been an issue for her for a year now, and she doesn’t know how to confront it. She said that she doesn’t like that in herself and wants to change it. My feeling is that this is an important maturational issue for her as a young athlete, and that she wants to address the issue.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in her coaches to deal with this. After her crash last year, I brought her fear to their attention and the response was “she will get over it.” I mentioned the issue again this year, and got little response.

How can I help her to confront her fears?

post #2 of 3
Young kids (under 7) tend to fall all over the place in every imaginable activity - and not mind a bit because they're used to it. As they get older they become more coordinated and tend to fall less.

Over time, kids lose their comfortable, well-trained reactions to falling. At the same time they're also getting larger (more Mass overall) and losing much of the wild range of joint motion they had as very young kids. At some point the ways in which an individual used to fall (without consequence) will no longer be appropriate to the way that same individual needs to react when falling today.

Just like skiing, there is technique to falling. If we fall a lot we develop our own techniques to deal with it and we don't mind when it happens. With such 'falling technique' in hand we're also less stressed out by the constant thought of "what will happen if I fall?".

Since she's serious about racing and has stated an interest in dealing with the issue I'd suggest finding a local gym that teaches tumbling-type floor exercises. This would be right in line with the athletic skills needed for an aspiring ski racer as well as teaching methods of tumbling, rolling and recovery. It would also provide good, ongoing experiences with 'falling' and build a larger comfort zone.

post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Thanks Michael,
My daughter is also into gymnastics, and has done a lot of floor exercise. Your suggestion reminds me of falling strategies for mountain biking wherein one tries to roll with the fall rather than stiff arm the earth (the earth always wins). I've had some lucky tumbles, but have also seen some rather nasty fractures when the earth comes too fast. This is also a real aspect of ski racing.

I had a very good discussion via email with another bear, who helped me refine my thoughts. I think the question has evolved to “how can I help a young skier confront her fears, while at the same time help her to make good decisions about the risks she takes and how hard she pushes herself.” This is the opposite of what I have to do with my 10 y/o son, who I'm constantly trying to convince that he is not indestructible and who takes too many risks. (Fortunately, he's getting the point after his last injury, which luckily was only a bruise and not a fracture of the calcaneus.) It is easy to know what to do with him, but it is more of a delicate line with her issue.

Are there suggestions from the psychological point of view to help a young skier address this? How do coaches help high level skiers recover mentally from a crash?
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